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  • Articles by Sonali

    Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty

    Savage Beauty is a comprehensive review of the late Alexander McQueen’s prolific career and work as a fashion designer. This exhibition at the V&A is arranged over a series of themed rooms. Beginning with a rather modest display entitled ‘London’ referring to Lewisham-born McQueen’s affinity to his home city. The focus here is on sharp tailoring, jackets etc reflecting his work experience at Gieves and Hawkes on Saville Row; followed by heavily embroidered outfits based on his stint at theatrical costumiers Bermans & Nathans.


    The wow factor is steadily ramped up through the exhibition – but his creations are always underpinned by an underlying simplicity. Here are some highlights:-

    Romantic Nationalism: Outfits are sourced from ‘Widows of Culloden’(2006), a collection inspired by McQueen’s Scottish heritage; the dresses on display here are cut from swathes of red tartan cloth.

    Romantic Naturalism: A sublimely pretty room with an autumnal feel. Featuring a magnificent dress composed of slightly overripe real and silk flowers, a tuile and lace dress ingeniously offset by antler headwear, and a dress made from razor clam shells.

    Cabinet of Curiosities: This really is quite breathtaking to behold; each alcove alternates between an item designed by McQueen and his collaborators, or a TV screen running footage from his extraordinary fashion shows.

    The objects in upper strata of double storey cabinet were too high up and out of eyeshot. Lower tiers contained, most notably, a butterfly hat designed by milliner Philip Treacy and a unique Orchid shoulder piece by jeweller Shaun Leane, both channelling McQueen’s vision.

    McQueen's fashion shows were highly choreographed and very theatrical, often resembling performance art. There is footage from ‘Horn of Plenty’, his final show, emphasising the timeless quality of his work- it was made in 2009, but might have been produced yesterday.

    I was reminded of Nick Waplington Alexander McQueen at Tate Britain, and Waplington's photographs of landfill sites which placed McQueen’s work in a wider context.  Savage Beauty lacked this reference point in the real world - and, at times, felt a bit frivolous and superficial in contrast. This is an exquisite and often sublime journey through the work of Alexander McQueen, but perhaps falls short of revealing the complex ethos driving his paradoxical vision.

      

     Savage Beauty at the V&A runs until 2 August 2015


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